There’s nothing like snuggling into your sleeping bag for a peaceful night under the stars, then your campsite neighbor starts blaring “Cruise” by Florida Georgia Line.
While most campgrounds have quiet hours, they’re not always respected or enforced, especially as state parks face diminishing budgets and can’t afford to have rangers act as babysitters.
For a more peaceful and wild camping experience, you need to break away from the paved campground loop. Usually that means going north to the vast stretches of public land that are far from Wisconsin’s major population centers, but peace can be found in southern Wisconsin, too.
Some of the state’s most remote sites require a paddle or boat ride, but all of these below can be hiked to. Some of the most secluded sites require a lengthy hike — the price for a remote spot in the woods all to yourself.
Rock Island State Park
Off the tip of Door County beyond Washington Island, Rock Island sits as a 912-acre state park with 40 walk-in campsites. Most are secluded and some have beach access. The most remote sites, A through E, are perched on a bluff above Lake Michigan, but are the farthest walk from the ferry landing. Carts are available for hauling gear, but you’ll want to pack light — the trails are more friendly to feet than wheels. Water is available near the dock, and vault toilets are scattered throughout the island. Campsites book up in the summer; reserve online in advance.
Newport State Park
Wisconsin’s only wilderness park is developed as little as possible, making it a great spot for a quiet, unplugged camping trip. All 16 campsites are hike-in, with plenty of space and vegetation between them to make it feel like you’re the only one in the park. Sites have wilderness toilets; water is available near the beach. Three of the campsites are available for walk-ups; the others can be reserved.
Porcupine Lake Wilderness
Dispersed camping is allowed anywhere in this wilderness area in the Chequamegon-Nicolet National Forest east of Drummond, but a few unofficial campsites have popped up in prime locations, including along Porcupine Lake. Find one of the best off the North Country National Scenic Trail on the northeast end of the secluded lake, about 80 yards south of the trail. The unofficial site is about 4 miles west of the wilderness area’s eastern boundary on County Highway D.
Jones Spring Trail Area
Three lakes dot this 2,000-acre trail area in the Chequamegon-Nicolet National Forest near Townsend. Five primitive, hike-in campsites are scattered around Fanny Lake, which is circled by a hiking trail. The sites are less than a mile hike in from a parking lot at the end of Fanny Lake Road off County Highway T.
Governor Dodge State Park
The six backpack campsites at this large state park in the Driftless Region are set apart from the park’s busier family campgrounds, allowing for a semi-remote experience not too far from Madison. The reservable sites are about a half-mile hike from a parking area, where there are vault toilets and water. The rest of the park features two lakes with beaches and nearly 40 miles of hiking trails, including one that passes a small waterfall.
Lauterman and Perch Lakes
Five walk-in campsites circle quiet Lauterman Lake in the Chequamegon-Nicolet National Forest west of Florence. Across Highway 70, five more sites circle Perch Lake. All are a 0.25- to 1-mile hike from the parking area. There’s a $5 fee for parking at the trailhead, but the sites are free on a first-come, first-served basis. All sites have picnic tables, fire rings and wilderness-style toilets. There isn’t any drinking water, so plan to haul in your own or treat the water from the lakes.
An unofficial campsite sits at the end of Horn Lake Road on the southern end of this little lake in the Lincoln County Forest northeast of Merrill. Nearby, the Ice Age Trail’s 6.3-mile Underdown segment winds east through heavily wooded terrain in the Lincoln County Forest.
Buckhorn State Park
In addition to a family campground, Buckhorn has 50 hike-in sites scattered around this peninsula on Castle Rock Lake. Some require hikes of up to a mile, but sites 1-3 are just a few hundred yards from a parking area, where carts are available to help haul gear. All three sites have access to a shared sandy beach. There is a vault toilet near the sites, and water is available at the park office or a nearby group camping area.
Ice Age Trail, Kettle Moraine State Forest
Ten backpack shelters — most along the Ice Age Trail — dot the Kettle Moraine State Forest’s northern, southern and Lapham Peak units in southeastern Wisconsin. The shelters are the closest spot for backpacking for Milwaukeeans, offering a slice of wilderness in the most developed part of the state. Some of the shelters are less than a mile hike from a parking area; it’s possible to connect a few for a multi-day trek through the state forest. All have a vault toilet and access to water nearby. The shelters must be reserved in advance by calling Reserve America at (800) 274-7275 or in person at a forest office.
Chippewa Moraine State Recreation Area
Two backcountry campsites are accessible off the Ice Age Trail in this recreation area in northwestern Wisconsin. Both are situated among the woods on quiet little lakes less than half a mile walk from the area’s interpretive center. Campers must check in at the center before using the sites.
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